NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) - The winter's ills will be hard to escape this year as more people continue to get sick. But the flu and the cold share many symptoms, so how can you tell the difference?
"They are both caused by viruses with the cold you have a runny nose, you have a stuffed up feeling in your head. And most of the time you don't have a fever when you have the cold," said Linda Riley, a registered nurse at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton.
Riley says with the flu you will have a fever along with body aches. "When you have the flu, you are sick as a dog," said Riley who manages the hospital's infection prevention department.
The flu virus has led to the deaths of 18 people in Massachusetts. Riley told 22News 15 people have been admitted to Cooley Dickinson sick with the flu, up 37% from last year. Numbers she expects will grow as thousands of college students return from winter break; given that they haven't reached the peak of the flu season. Emergency Room visits are up too, 10% according to hospital data. But if you catch it and you're healthy, Riley says stay home, call your health care provider and ask for a prescription. Drink fluids and keep your hands away from your nose, mouth and eyes.
"But if you are young child, if you are pregnant, if you're elderly if you have heart disease, lung disease you're on medicines that suppress your immune system then definitely you need to see your doctor," said Riley.
Confirmed cases have been growing by the day in the Baystate, with 700 in Boston alone. And technicians at the Micro Biology Lab inside Cooley Dickinson Hospital are performing roughly 30 influenza tests a day; a third come back positive.
"It's a rapid influenza test, for both the strains, A & B," said Dawn Gatzounas, the lab's supervisor, of the 15 minute test. "Compared with the last couple of year we are probably seeing a 20% to a 30% increase in the number of positives," she said.
Riley says the first line of defense against the flu is the vaccine. So, get your flu shot.
There will be two free flu clinics in Northampton this weekend:
The Northampton Health Department will offer a free clinic:
Saturday January 12, 2013
9 AM - 11 AM
Florence Community Center 140 Pine Street
This free vaccine clinic will be for people age 8 and over.
Please bring your insurance card.
The VNA & Hospice of Cooley Dickinson, a 2012 Home Care Elite Agency, will hold a flu clinic:
Saturday, January 12, 2013
9 AM to 12 NOON
Greenfield Savings Bank's
325A King Street, Northampton, MA 01060.
Fee is $30.00, but Medicare and many other insurances pay for flu vaccines, so community members should bring their insurance cards. No appointment necessary.